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The Coldest War (The Milkweed Triptych, #2)

Review:

This tril­o­gy is a tricky read. Most char­ac­ters just suf­fer through hor­ri­ble things.

Al­so, the way the or­a­cle's pow­er works is fair­ly ob­vi­ous, and there are (a­gain) ob­vi­ous coun­ter­mea­sures that could have been tak­en by the oth­er par­ties in or­der to ren­der her
pow­er use­less (ex­am­ple: killing her).

On the oth­er hand, it de­scribes a world that feels as if it ex­ists or ex­ist­ed, which is some­thing I re­al­ly like in sci­ence fic­tion.

Apple uses skeuomorphism, but it's not because they are idiots.

Ev­ery day there is a new post de­cry­ing Ap­ple's taste­less use of skeuo­mor­phism (y­ou know, mak­ing cal­cu­la­tor pro­grams look like cal­cu­la­tors and note-­tak­ing apps look like notepad­s?).

I to­tal­ly agree that skeuo­mor­phic apps are ug­ly and stupid. I said that in 2-t­hou­sand-f­reak­ing-­four. But just look­ing at the lat­est abom­i­na­tion (it seems to be a sound recorder that looks like a ree-­to-reel, of all things) and sneer­ing is worse, be­cause that means you don't have any ideas of where de­sign comes from, and I say this be­ing a per­son with as much taste as a wal­rus.

De­sign comes from peo­ple. There is a grander de­sign be­hind that spe­cif­ic de­sign, which you could call a guide­line, or a phi­los­o­phy, or in some cas­es a zeit­geist. For 50 years, there has ex­ist­ed a con­sen­sus about clean­li­ness of de­sign be­ing a good thing. It start­ed in some spe­cif­ic nich­es while oth­ers went in oth­er di­rec­tions (car fin­s!) and lat­er each area of de­sign has moved, like a pen­du­lum, to­wards clean­li­ness or "spe­cial­ness".

Once you go "clean", and ev­ery­one goes "clean" there is very lit­tle you can do to make your prod­uct dis­tinc­tive, and a ten­sion is cre­at­ed to make it less clean and more "spe­cial".

Google's en­try page used to be ab­so­lute­ly clean. A place to en­ter tex­t, and two but­ton­s. Now it has a menu with 11+ item­s, 3 but­ton­s, and an icon. Ap­ple's OS9 was as­cetic, and now OSX is a sea of boun­cy col­or­ful things shout­ing at you.

The skeuo­mor­phism and oth­er in­di­ca­tions of overde­sign, of com­pli­ca­tion, in ap­ple's apps is not un­in­ten­tion­al, it's an in­ten­tion­al at­tempt at mak­ing the ap­pli­ca­tions spe­cial, ap­peal­ing, and dis­tinc­tive. It is ug­ly and aw­ful, but it is so in­ten­tion­al­ly, be­cause the very con­cepts of ug­li­ness and aw­ful­ness are just a vague con­sen­sus among the user­s, and Ap­ple sure­ly felt con­fi­dence that user­s, ac­cos­tumed to Ap­ple's role as kings of taste, would change their taste to fit. And as far as I can see that is ex­act­ly what has hap­pened.

Users are not the ones com­plain­ing about Ap­ple's de­sign style, oth­er de­sign­ers are com­plain­ing. That sig­nal­s, to me, a dis­con­nect be­tween the taste of de­sign­ers and the taste of user­s. And hon­est­ly, the taste of de­sign­ers is on­ly of vague aca­dem­ic in­ter­est to com­pa­nies try­ing to sell prod­uc­t.

Ap­ple's hard­ware stays min­i­mal­is­tic be­cause they have suc­cess­ful­ly brand­ed it. If you see a squar­ish slab of black glass with a but­ton, you think iPad or iPhone de­pend­ing on size, not "gener­ic min­i­mal­is­tic touch de­vice". On soft­ware, that did not work. There was noth­ing in­ter­est­ing or in­no­va­tive, or dis­tinc­tive in min­i­mal­is­tic de­sign for ap­pli­ca­tion­s.

So they start­ed with col­or­ful gum­drop­s, moved on­to brushed met­al, and then in­to fake stitched leather, be­cause they are try­ing to find some­thing that can be as suc­cess­ful­ly and pow­er­ful­ly brand­ed as "sil­very slim wedge with black keys" is now.

De­sign­ers ap­par­ent­ly seem to be­lieve there is cer­tain spe­cif­ic "clean­li­ness" that is the hall­mark of "good" de­sign, and that ripped pa­per and oth­er skeuo­mor­phic af­fec­ta­tions are signs of bad taste. That is sil­ly and ahis­toric. Clean­li­ness is just a fash­ion, reel-­to-reel dig­i­tal recorders are an at­tempt at cre­at­ing a taste. It's am­bi­tious, and re­spectable.

On the oth­er hand, it is ug­ly as hel­l.

Year Zero

It starts with these two alien­s:

And a lawyer called Nick Carter, who is not this Nick Carter:

If I were to de­scribe the plot, it would make me sound in­sane, which is a good thing. So, I will just let the book trail­er do the work:

Have you ev­er read Dou­glas Adams and wished the plot start­ed mak­ing some sense? Have you ev­er read Ter­ry Pratch­ett and wished there was more than one ex­cru­ci­at­ing­ly stretched joke per book? 1

Well, if you have, I rec­om­mend you give Year Ze­ro a try. It's hi­lar­i­ous, it has a plot of sort­s, and has at least three dif­fer­ent jokes in it. A work­ing knowl­edge of lame 80s (and 70s) mu­sic helps but is not hor­ri­bly nec­es­sary.

So, I give this five stars 2 and rec­om­mend it to ev­ery one.

1

And yes, I know that's prac­ti­cal­ly the point of Ter­ry Pratch­et­t's style.

2

It's the sec­ond 5-s­tar book for me this year, af­ter A Naked Sin­gu­lar­i­ty. I did­n't even give those to The Mon­go­li­ad even though I am a hope­less Neal Stephen­son fan­boy.

Tus Amigos

Sor­ry, span­ish on­ly.


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Miren la ban­da.

No ten­go mu­chos ami­gos. Ten­go tres o cu­a­tro, ponéle. Se­guro no más de 10. Ten­go mu­chos cono­ci­dos, ten­go mucha gente que me cae bi­en, habrá al­guno que le cai­go bi­en, habrá otros que me cono­cen. He tenido ami­gos que nun­ca ví, ten­go ami­gos que nun­ca veo, ten­go ami­gos que nun­ca voy a ver porque tu­vieron la mala idea de morirse antes que los vea.

Ten­go ami­gos que quiero mu­cho, ten­go ami­gos que me ca­gan de risa, ten­go ami­gos y ten­go ami­gas, ten­go al­gu­na her­mana pos­ti­za que la quiero co­mo si fuera mi hí­gado, ten­go mi es­posa que es más ami­ga, ten­go ami­gos que quisiera ver más.

Hay ami­gos que no me cono­cen, pero si al­guien te re­gala un li­bro que te cam­bia la vi­da, o una can­ción que te lev­an­ta a la mañana, o un pro­gra­ma de ra­dio que te hace olvi­dar to­das las noches la bosta que fué el día, es­os son ami­gos míos, aunque yo no sea ami­go suy­o.

Hay gente que no conoz­co que me ha agrade­ci­do al­gu­na cosa que hice y supon­go que yo seré ami­go suyo aunque no sean ami­gos míos. A el­los les di­go que son ami­gos míos tam­bién.

No ten­go ami­gos de la in­fan­ci­a, no ten­go ami­gos de la ado­les­cen­ci­a, ten­go al­gún ami­go de mis vein­tipi­co, ten­go más de mis trein­tas, to­davía no ten­go uno de los cuarentayp­i­co. Ten­go ami­gos en otros país­es, ten­go ami­gos acá al la­do. Ten­go pocos pero son vari­a­dos. Ten­go pocos pero son los mejores.

Y cuan­do me muer­a, si me ha­cen la gaucha­da de no morirse antes el­los, ojalá ten­ga una coro­na que di­ga: Tus Ami­gos. Y se la destapen y se la tomen, los putos.

Y U So Serious?

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Hel­lo? I am the guy that posts about twin ba­nanas!

Since I de­cid­ed to stop be­ing a troll (I am try­ing!) I no­ticed that peo­ple take what I write waaaaay too se­ri­ous­ly. This post is a gen­tle re­minder that I have post­ed more about sil­ly stuff than about se­ri­ous stuff. MUCH more.

So, if you ev­er find your­self think­ing "Hey, Rober­to seems to be mak­ing an in­ter­est­ing point", first think about the twin ba­nanas. If what I wrote still looks in­ter­est­ing, pro­ceed.


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